Photo: Paul Rudderow
Monday saw a strange chain of events in the realm of communicating MLS news after one of the initial articles reporting the trade of 22-year old Argentine forward Maximiliano Urruti to Portland referred to him as a “League Designated Player.” A minor controversy soon followed, which was understandable given that know one had ever heard of such a designation before. The facts on what exactly this could have been, if it had been, are sketchy at best. News reports have since been amended, and the league called a hasty press conference to put out the fire.
The general tone of this designation, though, would have been something to this effect: MLS facilitates the acquisition of a young player for a team, and that team would be expected to play him regularly. There is much to criticize about MLS’s murky ways of describing and maintaining their salary cap. But this…this has some merit. And it actually would be a great fit for a guy with the Boys in Blue, Roger Torres.
The Urruti trade
The Urruti trade is rather suspicious, given the fact that Toronto pursued the young forward for a considerable amount of time. His acquisition by the Reds was announced in mid-August, and by early September he was being traded? What Toronto gets out of this trade is also suspicious. Bright Dike has shown a flash or two but a first round draft pick in 2015 and some allocation money are also not exactly top-dollar for a guy who was courted by European teams.
Regardless of the why, how, or for what, the concept of bringing in potential international talent is worthwhile, especially when that player presents a talent that the league could use. But as we’ve noticed in this league, some players don’t end up fitting the coach’s model.
A guy who could qualify
In the midst of a largely successful 2013 campaign thus far for Philadelphia Union, one glaring hole in the team’s makeup is in the midfield. I can’t help but wonder if PSP’s writers are tired of having to shove an obligatory paragraph or two in each match report about the dysfunctional midfield. [Editor's note: Yes.]
Roger Torres is the elephant in the room that we’ve all had to bite our tongues about for the entire season. All indications coming out of preseason training was that Torres looked the part. And yet he has played a paltry 37 minutes in 2013. Obviously he hasn’t fit into John Hackworth’s tactical plan for the team.
Torres is about 6 months younger than Urruti. He would be right in that zone that would be perfect for this type of “League DP” designation, if there was such a thing. Would it not be better for MLS to require that teams who bring in players like Torres to actually use them?
Admirable to promote domestic talent
MLS has a huge role in the development of domestic players towards a successful career for both club and country. The Union’s usual starting XI contains 9 domestic and 2 internationals (Fabinho, Keon Daniel; Sebastian Le Toux has a green card). That kind of percentage was much less in the Nowak regime, and it has been clear that Hackworth wants to help in the development of US talent.
But there is a need for international talent in MLS as well. There can be a premium paid for such talent, given salary structures that can vary greatly among leagues around the world. One would hope that international players brought into MLS bring something different, a quality that augments the squad already in place.
Torres seems to be that kind of player. The Ferreira’s, Morales’, and Rosales’ of MLS have been essential parts of winning teams for years now, and the expectation from the Union’s first year was that Torres could develop into that player. He has shown creativity many times when on the pitch. You could say the same thing for Kleberson, with the difference being that the Brazilian midfielder is on the opposite end of his career path and is costing 4 times Torres’ wage.
But the youthful Colombian hasn’t been given a legitimate chance this year. The situation is quite opaque, but the only way Torres could ever develop into a player that benefits both the Union and MLS in the long term is to play.
Play or trade
Perhaps the league needs to consider holding teams accountable for their international signings. If you’re going to sign an Urruti, either use him, or the league will broker a trade that doesn’t benefit you long-term. If you look at the Urruti-to-Portland trade, it’s not exactly the type of deal I’d want to do if I was Tim Leiweke or Ryan Nelsen.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve had discussions with Union fans where the sentiment was, “If they’re not going to use Roger, trade him to someone who will.” That was the gist of this phantom “League DP” label. Maybe the League needs this kind of accountability for teams who keep talented players that don’t fit their plans. If you’re going to pay them, play them.